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Inked for Life

by Karly Balslew | July 12, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
For tattoo artist Calli Loskill, art has molded her into who she is today as she gets to share her passion and creations with everyone she meets. She will have been a licensed tattoo artist for six years come this August (Photo/Dom O'Halloran).

Art is everywhere. From the music we hear on the radio to the doodles we draw in the margins of notebooks, there is no denying that we are constantly immersed in art wherever we are. Art takes various shapes and forms and has a unique meaning for every individual. For tattoo artist Calli Loskill, art has molded her into who she is today as she gets to share her passion and creations with everyone she meets. She will have been a licensed tattoo artist for six years come this August.  

“I’ve always wanted to go into art,” Loskill said. “It was my first love.” 

Initially, she didn’t know if she would pursue a career in art but knew if she didn’t, art would take up a large portion of her life regardless. In high school, she took every art class available to her and joined various art clubs. She later received her undergraduate degree from Truman State University in studio art. While a degree isn’t necessary to land apprenticeships and become a tattoo artist, her experience has been very useful to her in the tattoo industry. 

Like many people, Loskill was still unsure of what she wanted to do after she graduated, so she attended graduate school to pursue a degree in art education at Webster University because she knew she would be immersed in art in a classroom setting. While she never formally taught outside her graduate program, her path of art education opened other opportunities for her. 

“It was art education that made me feel like it was OK to try other things and do different types of art,” Loskill said. “I just went straight into other types of artistry.” 

After college, she was a makeup artist for a few years and was inspired by her peers. She explained that many makeup artists are heavily tattooed and creative people. Being surrounded by positive and innovative energy, she was drawn into the tattoo industry like a magnet. 

“Even though I wasn’t sure what realm of art I wanted to go into, I did have tattoos and tattooing definitely on my radar,” Loskill said.  

To get into the tattoo industry, eager artists must start with an apprenticeship and find a mentor. Loskill clarified that apprenticeships are different for everybody because mentors teach others based on how they were taught. However, it can be challenging to find the right apprenticeship and mentor as the industry is extremely competitive. Apprenticeships can also vary in length depending on progress made with your mentor and readiness as an artist. 

While it may take many years of trial and error to become a licensed tattoo artist, Loskill explained that the industry is set up this way for a reason. Tattooing is an art form that needs to be taken seriously. Mentors are cautious about who they decide to train and teach as tattooing is a permanent craft. Not only is it important to create quality designs but there are also health implications that come with putting art onto a person’s body. 

“It’s not just a regular craft that you’re going to pick up — it's a biohazard art form,” Loskill said. “It’s dealing with people’s lives and bodies.”  

Connection in art

For client Allissa Reed, receiving a tattoo from Loskill was an extremely memorable moment. Reed got a chest piece done of two dogs barking with the words “deceiving looks” in between the dogs. This tattoo held very special meaning to her as she used to rescue and rehabilitate feral dogs. 

“Getting tattooed by Calli is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, she is nothing but positive vibes and a great conversationalist,” Reed said. “Not only is she a master at her craft, but also makes sure you feel comfortable during your tattoo. No amount of pauses or breaks deters her from perfecting her tattoos.” 

Tattooing for Loskill is somewhat philosophical. She explained that the feeling people get when they receive a tattoo is hard to find in other areas of our lives. There are few experiences in life where you can make a decision you want for yourself that has no effect on anybody else. Tattoos allow people to express themselves in whatever kind of way that people want or need. 

“You feel a sense of empowerment. You feel super connected not only with the art you’re getting but also with yourself,”  Loskill said. “It’s a very strong sense of being yourself regardless of what someone else might think.” 

Loskill’s tattoo style has changed over time as she tried new things and got creative with her work. Currently, her style is black-colored work and creating minimalistic line and stipple tattoo designs. She loves to tattoo anything nature-related, like animals and flowers. Loskill prefers to tattoo flash or freehand pieces. Flash tattoos are pre-drawn creations that clients can choose from usually from a binder or displayed on the walls of a tattoo shop while freehand pieces are drawn directly on a client instead of using a stencil which makes these tattoos unique to each different person. 

“It’s extremely rewarding to care for people and let them know that whatever they think of themselves and how they want to feel about themselves is valid, and I’m here for them,” Loskill said. 

For client Shilo Lehman, Loskill was the first female artist she went to, and she has since gotten 12 more tattoos from her with no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

“I would describe Calli as extremely empathetic, she really does listen,” Lehman said.

Regardless of what tattoo a client is looking to get, every piece, big or small, holds meaning to the person receiving the permanent artwork. Every line of ink etched into the skin is to be held for a lifetime.  

“There is no one type of person that gets tattoos. There are millions of different people that get tattoos for millions of different reasons, and anybody can get one,” Loskill said. “You don’t have to be living on the edge. Your grandma could have a tattoo and you don’t even know it.”


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